Huskies win bragging rights
EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado ” Battle Mountain’s Jair Molina didn’t know it at the time, but he was playing the role of Eagle Valley’s Cesar Castillo last week in practice.
The rules of Huskies soccer coach David Cope’s Cesar Drill were simple. The offense isn’t allowed to score unless the ball goes through Castillo (as played by Molina) and the defense better not let the ball get to Castillo/Molina.
“I don’t think he knew, but wen he (was wearing) blue a few days ago, he was Cesar,” Cope said. “That was the Cesar Drill, but I never said it to the kids.”
Under the category of “irony can be very ironic,” not only did Battle Mountain end up containing Eagle Valley’s ace scorer Thursday, but Molina ended up playing the role of Castillo for the Huskies, scoring two goals in a 2-1 win over the Devils in the regular-season finale for both teams in Eagle-Vail.
Eagle Valley finished the season with a dazzling 12-2-1 mark and as undisputed Slope champions, unseating its cross-county rivals in that role. Meanwhile, Battle Mountain is 11-4 as both teams await their seedings for the state playoffs, which start next week.
However, as multiple members of Battle Mountain were quick to point out, both of the Devils’ losses came at the hands of the Huskies. And in a certain symmetry, both games were 2-1 decisions with Molina scoring his team’s four aggregate goals and Castillo having both for Eagle Valley.
“It’s nice, especially scoring four goals against them, the only goals in the whole game (today),” Molina said. “I think I come motivated because they are champions. We had to beat them to get a good ranking (in the playoffs). We didn’t get to win the league, but we set it straight that we were the best team in the league.”
For the correct perspective on league standings, Eagle Valley coach Jason Rittmiller and his counterpart added their two cents.
“Eagle’s got a great team. They’ve had a great season,” Cope said. “They deserve to be congratulated. I thought today they handled themselves with great class and played well.”
“Today wasn’t about the league,” Rittmiller said. “We’re not worried about that. That’s taken care of. It was just about coming up here and doing our best against Battle Mountain. It’s a disappointment, but every loss is.”
As for the after affects of his team’s first loss since Sept. 9, Rittmiller seemed to have his Devils properly focused.
“The season’s over. Who cares? It’s playoff time.”
Huskies senior midfielder Marco Ordono has traditionally gotten the assignment to cover Castillo in this series, but this time he was a part of a group effort.
Cope pulled back midfielders Ordono and Hugo Parra and had those two work constantly with the backline of David Gonzalez, Connor Tedstrom and Kalen Burnett along with goalie Clint Hervert.
The coach then regularly subbed in reserves Patty Baskins and Tyler Madison to keep his defense fresh. That left Castillo seeing nothing but white shirts all day.
“They played a huge role allowing Davey (DeChant) and Jair not to worry about coming back and defending,” Cope said.
And Molina got rolling early, ripping a shot past Devils goalie Trevor Grayson into the right corner in the eighth minute. The assist went to Jack Sunderland.
The Huskies got some much-needed insurance when DeChant fed Molina on a breakaway in the second half for a 2-0 lead.
“For the first time he finishes a 1-v.-1,” Gonzalez joked.
While Molina has hit his fair share of iron this season, in his defense, he does have 15 goals this season, while DeChant leads the Huskies with 17.
Of course, Castillo leads the universe, or at least the state of Colorado, in goal-scoring. But his 38th of the season came with some considerable debate.
Eagle Valley got an indirect kick in the second half, and Castillo, as is custom took it. Since it was an indirect, two Devils had to touch the ball before a shot was directed toward the goal. Seeing that Castillo was the first and only player to strike the ball, Hervert understandably let the shot go by him, thinking that the play would be called dead.
Instead the goal counted, and Cope, who will never be confused with Bobby Knight, was visibly upset, which is a lot by his standards. Cope went out onto the field to protest and was booked with a yellow card.
“People make mistakes,” Cope said. “I think Clint did the right thing. He saw the signal for an indirect kick, which means two people have to touch it. So when the player shot it, he let it go. I’m just glad it didn’t affect the outcome.”
And now both teams get to wait for Seeding Sunday, when Chsaa.org releases the 4A state-playoff bracket. Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain will play in their respective first-round games Tuesday or Wednesday.
Where they play depends on their seed. Eagle Valley, as the league champion and the top seed in the region, should be somewhere between Nos. 6-10. Ideally, the Devils would like to be in the top eight so that they are home for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“I’m crossing my fingers,” Rittmiller said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do. It’s all speculation. One person thinks one thing. Another person thinks that. Hopefully, we’ll land ourselves up in the top eight. That would give us a good position for the playoff games.”
Battle Mountain is hoping for No. 16 or better, which would put the Huskies at home for the first round. Cope, who is very proficient at lobbying for seed, started spitting off Battle Mountain’s quality wins after the game, and he has a point, not only for his team but for the top-four teams in the Slope.
The Huskies, Glenwood and Steamboat all beat Summit County, which clinched the Jeffco League Thursday. Eagle Valley dumped Golden, a playoff regular, earlier this year. The Huskies took out Montrose on the road and so on.
“I don’t care what rank we’re going to get,” Molina said. “We’re going to go hard.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.
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